With so much attention being paid to the behemoth resort of Atlantis on Paradise Island, it often overshadows other properties in Nassau, Bahamas, as couples and families flock to the prime piece of real estate without truly realizing there are other options. One of those options includes the British Colonial Hilton.
There was a day when the British Colonial Hotel was considered to be pure luxury and THE place to stay in the Bahamas. The hotel dates back to 1923, with a look that personifies ‘colonial’. Years later, The Emerald Beach Hotel would pop up next door as a smaller and more economical option that allowed visitors to stay on the same stretch of the beach while foregoing the loveliness of the hotel known as the ‘Grand Dame’.
Since then, the Emerald Beach Hotel is long gone and the British Colonial has undergone several changes of ownership and name variations, as well as several renovations, one of which was a $15-million overhaul that took place in 2009 and upgraded the seven-story hotel to compete with others in the area. As it turned out, it even surpassed many of them with an elegant lobby, gorgeous poolscape, and 270 rooms that are indeed conservative but pleasant in their decor.
While the minimalistic appearance of the hotel rooms seems to be a point of contention for many reviewers, we actually found the room to be delightful – roomy, bright and clean, though the view was somewhat lacking. Not all rooms are oceanfront, but they are ocean view.
As with many Caribbean destinations, tiled floors are favored here. It might not feel as nice as carpet underfoot, but it makes perfect sense because it’s long wearing and easier to maintain, with sand faster to sweep up, water faster to wipe up, and overall cleaning easier which makes it more hygienic.
Dark wood furnishings are contrasted with white marble countertops and beds are made in stark white linens. Mini fridges here tend to be larger than standard size so they’re quite handy for beverages and snacks. Additionally, there are single-cup coffee makers in the room, which is handy for mornings when you’re not quite ready to head to the restaurant.
Smaller rooms have the option of two queen beds or two twin beds. One-bedroom suites boast separate bedrooms with king beds and a large living room area with a double bed pull-out couch. This set up is perfect for a small family with parents looking for a bit of privacy. Connecting rooms have the combination of one room with a queen bed connecting to another room with two double beds. Though the rooms tend to lean toward monochromatic with so much beige, brown and white, splashes of uplifting color can be found in the throws on the bed or in the tropical pictures on the walls.
For convenience, rooms include a desk, chairs, flat-screen TVs, and DVD players are available for rent at the receptions desk.
The bathrooms are once again minimal but functional with granite countertops and tiled shower-in-tub combos, though some rooms have separate showers and tubs. There could be some improvement here as the countertops are small. Additionally, we noted cracked corner tiles in our bathroom, and cracks are conduits for mold to thrive. As a result, cleanliness is debatable likely depending on which room you are assigned.
To date, the British Colonial Hilton does not offer an all-inclusive package or a meal plan. And given that this is a hotel, not a resort, dining options are somewhat limited. But that doesn’t mean that the options are bad. Quite the opposite is true. The Aqua restaurant, located just off the hotel lobby is fancy but comfortable and serves up varied and tasty breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets. Of the three daily meals, we found breakfast to be the best. Friday nights are dubbed ‘Caribbean Night” so they include some local dishes such as conch fritters, conch salad, as well as local fish options. For diners not wishing to participate, and this usually includes young children, a’ la carte options are available that include among other things, pork chops, pasta, and some kid-friendly dishes like chicken nuggets. However, if Aqua tends to stretch your budget a bit beyond your comfort zone, a cheaper dining option is the Patio Bar & Grille.
The pool and beach areas are simply beautiful, with turquoise water, silky sand, and plenty of lounge chairs. Views of palm trees, manicured gardens, and anchored cruise ships create amazing backdrops for photos.
The location of this hotel is superb and there’s much to do on the property, especially for kids. For starters, guests can use the hotel’s sea kayaks provided they remain inside the roped area. Although it doesn’t give a lot of space for paddling, it’s something to try. Badminton racquets and balls, pails and shovels, are available near the lifeguard stand if you’re looking for something to entertain your kids while you bask in the sun. There’s also a beach volleyball court and a basketball court for older kids and adults if you want to get some friends together for a game. However, if you’re more in tune with bigger and more exciting off-site adventures, the hotel concierge can help to arrange snorkeling and Segway tours, or other excursions located around the island.
If you’re still in the mood for more and find that the water playground and marine life of Atlantis continue to beckon, day passes are available for purchases so that visitors can partake in fun without having to be guests of the resort. To that end, the British Colonial Hilton is a ‘best of both worlds‘ option, where your stay at their hotel is undoubtedly less expensive than at Atlantis, yet you are still able to enjoy some of the amenities that Atlantis offers.
PROS: Reasonable rates. Comfortable rooms. Beautiful views. Nice grounds.
CONS: Some repair and update are needed. Limited and expensive onsite dining options. Property tends to look and feel overwhelmed by so many ships in port and always in view.
All told, British Colonial Hilton has much going for it. It is a convenient destination that offers as much as possible as a hotel, as opposed to a resort. While the 2009 renovation did much in the way of modernizing and upgrading the property, the reno is now 7 years old and has accommodated a multitude of guests over the years. As such, ‘some’ of the rooms and facilities are once again beginning to show signs of age and a need for repair. However, it is still an outstanding destination for a stay, be it a week or as a cruise destination stopover for a day. It is a lovely backdrop for a wedding or a weddingmoon, it provides for a more economical option than the resorts on the island, and there definitely are more pluses than minuses.